Stoke Newington resident Claudia Draper led a campaign for Hackney Council to introduce a Play Streets policy after hearing about Playing Out in the national news. The campaign stressed the physical benefits to children of playing out more often, as well as the community building impact. Residents calling for play streets were featured on national TV in a BBC Breakfast piece in June 2012, which added to momentum.
Claudia approached key councillors and was supported by Hackney Play Association, London Play and Playing Out, who offered advice and practical support. Once she had street play sessions going on her own street, Playing Out found funding (from the government’s Social Action Fund) to pay her a few hours a week to spread the word and offer support to other streets. She developed a network of interested residents by setting up a local Facebook group, organised workshops and directly supported streets to get started.
In August 2012 the Council said they would be introducing a one-year pilot, emulating Bristol City Council’s Temporary Play Street Order. This was officially launched on 11 September 2013. The pilot was successful and a permanent policy was then put in place. Hackney Council now funds Hackney Play Association to support street play in the borough.
Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (see ‘Legal framework for street play’ for more info)
Hackney has an application pack that has to be accompanied by an indication of the level of support on a street (a list of supporters or a petition). There are four deadlines a year for processing applications to reduce the cost to the council of advertising the closures in the Gazette.
Hackney’s position is “To enable activity supported by the majority of affected residents and not being ‘phased’ by one or two objections.”
Objections in the first instance are to be directed to the resident and if not resolved by them passed on to the council. When making a decision as to whether a play street is to go ahead, it will weigh up objections with the amount of support. All objections result in a ‘decision audit’ being prepared for decision by senior management.
So far no objections have been upheld by the council. In one case organisers were asked to move the closure area to another part of the street, due to an objection from a resident with a severely disabled family member.
In September 2013 Hackney Council’s Health & Wellbeing Board commissioned Hackney Play Association, with Claudia leading the project, to support the development of play streets across all parts of the borough, targeting deprived areas and supporting four schools and/or children’s centres to run regular sessions.
A Play Streets Steering Group meets quarterly to discuss the scheme, share updates and information and address any issues. Members include council officers from Streetscene, Health & Wellbeing, Play Services, Communications as well as the Council member for Neighbourhoods, two residents, the Hackney Playing Out Coordinator, and the Director of Hackney Play Association.
The school-hosted model has proved an effective means of modelling playing out in more deprived areas and helps recruit street organisers from more diverse backgrounds. Four volunteer organisers from estates have been recruited via school hosted playing out sessions.
Hackney Play Association has produced a guide to playing out with schools.
Hackney has had over 50 streets playing out by Autumn 2017.
As well as all the known outcomes of play street sessions, there have been many knock-on effects reported, including:
Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods: Feryal Demirci:
“Play Streets has been a 100% positive experience for the Council.”
A local resident:
“The snow! Chatting to neighbours we don’t normally see, kids having fun together, reclaiming the street for ourselves, enjoying just hanging out, outside our houses.”
School headteacher Jenny Lewis:
“What was really lovely, and also unexpected, was the way it brought together parents from different communities whom I’d never seen chatting – and skipping together – before.”
Tim Gill has carried out two evaluations of the Hackney Council funded project, which is due to be published. One summarises the play streets project from 2013 to 2016 and the other is a more in-depth review covering the 2013-2014 period.
Charlotte Connell Senior Engineer